Sunday, June 12, 2011


It's that time of year again, when families leave post, either for the summer or forever.

School ends a few days hence, and the flights out of here will be full of all of the friends we've made these last ten months.

I ran into one man at the school - not a friend, exactly, but someone I've gotten to know fairly well given his role at the school - whose family is leaving soon, and permanently. They aren't foreign service officers, which makes their situation a bit different from ours.

You see, foreign service officers are told where to go and when, and then again, we're told when it's time to leave. We know we have a brief window of time in each country, and we know when that window is supposed to close from the moment we touch down at the airport for the first time.

For people like this man, teachers and other contract-driven expats, it's different. He had to decide when it was time to go, on his own. And so he decided, earlier this year, that he was done with this place, despite the fact that he had no idea what would come next.

You could see the sadness radiating off his face as we talked, because he doesn't quite know what he's going to. It's different if you have roots in a place, a home somewhere to which you can return. For permanent expats, there is no such place. You leave post, and you hope the place you're going to will have something to offer. You have to pray you're making the right choice. Because really: is it so bad where you are? How do you know when your time is up? And what to do if it is?

Right now, in this current economic climate, the future is uncertain for this type of expat. Will there be a job waiting for you somewhere else? Did you make the right decision, moving your family now, taking them away from what they know, or should you have stayed put for another year?

For this particular gentleman, it's worse, because he grew up overseas. So he has no roots, no place to which he's destined to return. For the first time, he's moving back to America, but he isn't moving home, not really.

And you could see the fear, all the nervousness and the worry, as he twisted his hands and talked about what might await his family in the coming months. They've never lived in America, after all, so this move is a big deal for the whole family. Will it work? He doesn't know.

But he was excited, too, and dreaming about what good things this change could bring. I hope it works out for him and his family. I hope they find their feet in America. I really do.


Smallbits said... [Reply]

Wow. That has to be so hard. Best of luck to your friend and his family. I can't even imagine.

Connie said... [Reply]

Change is exciting, and very hard too. My daughter was counting down the hours she was left with her best friend this morning :(

Anonymous said... [Reply]

We often talk with our friends about the differences of being a "private contract" family vs. a foreign service family ...

The differences of knowing when you'll leave vs. not having a clue ...

Great post!

Please. Write your own stuff.